Brad Staats, a GOP congressional candidate in Tennessee, drew some negative attention to his campaign this week after posting a picture of his handgun to Facebook and using it as a springboard to "welcome" President Barack Obama to Tennessee.
Staats, who is running to unseat five-term Democratic incumbent Rep. Jim Cooper, made the original post on September 27 on his campaign's fan page.
"Many people in Tennessee keep asking me about my opinion on Second Amendment rights. Apparently Tennesseans are part of that crazy crowd that Obama says 'cling to their religion and guns.' Well, then I must be part of that crazy crowd," he wrote in a caption beneath an upside-down picture of his gun. "Here is something that I usually have with me. Welcome to Tennessee Mr. Obama, where we appreciate our 2nd Amendment rights and the Constitution that was wisely given to us by our founding fathers."
The message appears to be a reference to the famous audio recording of then-candidate Obama saying at a fundraiser in 2008 that he wasn't surprised some communities "cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them."
In a subsequent interview with the Tennessean, Staats said his post was not meant to be a threat, and that he was simply a licensed gun owner exercising his Second Amendment rights.
“Good Lord, no,” he told the Tennessean when asked about the language. “Absolutely not. I’m not one of those that would ever threaten the president. He’s probably got enough of his own stuff to worry about without me.”
He later offered a stronger defense in an interview with Tennessee's WKRN.
"I do want President Obama to know, as well as the rest of Congress and everyone else regarding our constitutional rights, don't tread on America's Constitution," said Staats. "I think that your liberties, your life can be defended by the proper instructed use of a handgun."
Gun rights appear to be a strong theme throughout his Facebook page.
While his initial comment doesn't appear to mention it directly, Staats later suggested that his Facebook post was also meant to address his concerns with the United Nations Small Arms Treaty, which has arisen as a pervasive anti-Obama conspiracy theory. It's an international agreement designed to help stem the flow of illicit weapons to rogue groups, but far-right Second Amendment activists have characterized it as a way to undermine Americans' right to bear arms. A Texas judge claimed earlier this year that it was part of a broader effort by Obama to hand over national sovereignty to the U.N., an act that he said would bring about civil war.
According to the Tennessean, the Secret Service has been made aware of Staats' post. A spokesman said they would conduct any follow-up if necessary.